The year 2009 was a tough one for Indian music, a year full of tragic losses that left musicians and music lovers benumbed. But as I sit down to write my first Music Matters column of 2010, I am going to try and begin with good cheer and hope. Incorrigible cynics and pessimists among us are going to insist that there is no point in hoping for better times, but as I haven’t yet joined their ranks, here is my hope-list-cum-wish-list rolled into one.
Broadband: Hand-held devices can be used to download music.
Across the world, music industry gurus are predicting a further drop in physical sales of albums to the point where digital sales may eclipse physical sales sooner than we think. So how do indie artistes and record labels from India join the digital market? It’s really quite easy, because in cyberspace musicians can select from a variety of software applications and online aggregators that enable them to sell their music through digital stores such as iTunes, Napster, eMusic.com and hundreds and thousands of others as well. I started using something called SongCast (www.songcastmusic.com) many years ago, and found the interface fairly simple to use. But there are a host of other online distribution options that a musician could try, including CDBaby (www.cdbaby.com), TuneCore (www.tunecore.com), Zigned (www.zigned.com), and RouteNote (www.routenote.com). Each has a slightly different business model, but almost all enable artistes to sell their tracks along with album art, notes and information through digital stores and track sales with transparency. More recently, software such as Rebeat (www.rebeat.com), marketed in India by SudeepAudio (www.sudeepaudio.com), has also provided a welcome option for digital distribution.
All of the above, however, are accessible only to artistes who are familiar with Internet technology, use it prolifically, have access to high-speed Internet connections, computers, scanners, use credit cards and are comfortable with online transacting. Which would mean that a large majority of Indian musicians practicing traditional music, and musicians who may not have easy access to the hardware and software required to distribute their work through digital stores, would be left out in the cold. And here is where my wish list or rather Part 1 of my wish list comes in. Can we not think of a service that would professionally take care of all such nitty gritty for Indian musicians who do not have the necessary wherewithal to handle digital distribution? Isn’t there some IT company or tech venture or music-loving techie out there in this big, wide, beautiful country who could think of a service like this? Let’s not come up with the age-old suggestion of getting the government to do something because if you try and send an email about something like this to the venerable Sangeet Natak Akademi, all you get is either stony silence, or a failed delivery message, or worse, a snail mail message sent months after you forgot that you wrote to them in the first place. It will state that your suggestion has been received, will be placed before some committee or the other and their decision conveyed to you in due time. Due time of course, could mean a time in the future when digital sales may be on their way out, ready to be eclipsed by newer formats or technologies.
Part 2 of my wish list concerns music lovers. If digital sales are the order of the day, then music lovers in India need to sit up and take note and start using their Internet connections and credit cards more often in digital stores. There’s no point in Indian artistes distributing digitally if all their fans in India shy away from buying music online. Will 2010 then be the year for more Indian music to be sold and bought through digital stores? Let’s check in 2011, shall we?
Write to Shubha at email@example.com